Limited 2021-22 ISG Baseball Schedule Opens with Clinics in Serbia and Portugal
Following is an account of clinics in Kladovo, Serbia and Abrantes, Portugal by clinician Mark Fuller of Cumberland, Wisconsin
It had been two years since the International Sports Group had taken a team of coaches to Europe to meet its goal of spreading baseball across the world. Last year was the first time since 2007 that I had not taken a trip and although somewhat concerned with the ever-present spread of COVID-19, I was anxious to make a return.
The group has been conducting instruction abroad for 35 years, helping the Baseball Federations of the World grow the sport. ISG is currently headed by President Tom O’Connell, a good friend of mine from Milwaukee and among my travel partners has always been my good friend, John Vodenlich, the Head Coach at UW-Whitewater, whose staff I’ve been part of since 2014.
This trip included a three-day teaching session for coaches and players in Serbia followed by another three-day instructional meeting in Portugal. In between, we hooked up with friends from Belgium, Croatia and Slovenia and spend a couple days in far Western Slovenia to tour some vineyards.
A negative Covid test on November 10 puts me on my Delta flight to Belgrade through Amsterdam. Following 11 hours on a plane, I finally arrive in Serbia’s Capital where I meet up with Vodenlich and our hosts for a four-hour drive to
Our clinic site was near the city of Kladovo, close to the Serbian-Romanian border where former Yugoslavian President Tito once held youth camps. Built around 1970, it contains numerous fields and a large gymnasium, plenty of space for the 30 youth in attendance.
While outdoors, we were able to take a short walk to the banks of the Danube, from which we could see Romania on the other side of Europe’s second-longest river. We were also able to walk through an old Roman settlement called the Diana Fortress, which dates back to 100 AD. The walls and former homes are preserved to a degree that gave us a glimpse into life over 1900 years ago.
Most of our time was spent on site during which our three days of instruction were met with great enthusiasm by the young men some of whom were members of the National Team. With language and logistic help from our hosts, Nik and Popke, the days flew by and much fun was held along with the learning.
Following the Sunday portion of the clinic, we toured Lepenski Vir, a significant archeological site from the stone age, and the next day left Serbia for a day in the Slovenian Capital of Ljubljana where we touched base with many old friends from earlier ISG clinics there.
Tuesday morning, we drove to the Karst region of Slovenia near the Italian border for a two-night stay at a Villa in the middle of wine country where wine has been bottled for centuries. The next day included a three-mile walk to the Cerje Memorial, which honors the combatants of WWI. The climb to the memorial followed some of the paths that were part of the defense ditches and once carried the boots of the first war soldiers.
Thursday, Vodenlich and I headed Venice for a flight to Portugal and the next ISG clinic. After a day in Lisbon, we made an hour and one-half drive to the city of Abrantes, city of 39,000 located on the north bank of the Tagus River, where the clinic will begin Friday night.
Sandra Monteiro, the President of the Portugal Baseball Federation, is a multi-talented lady who has not only done great work to advance baseball in her home country, but is also Chief of Global Business Strategies for the NHL Player’s Association. Her husband Tim Leiper, who became the third member of our ISG teaching team, has been involved in MLB for years, has served as the first base coach for the Toronto Bluejays and currently works for the San Francisco Giants.
For the first time in the history of ISG Baseball, the 30 coaches in attendance at the clinic must provide a negative Covid test before entering – a sign of the times in which we live. The next three days are filled with classroom presentations and on-field drills and activities. Almost all the men involved still play the game, while also teaching the sport to others.
As always, when the end of the clinic comes around that Sunday, everyone on the clinic staff felt a sense of sadness in having to part soon, but also felt fulfillment in having shared baseball knowledge in another ISG clinic.
(Right) Could the rainbow be a sign that the future of baseball in Europe looks good? Two Portuguese baseball hopefuls stand in awe at the site of the ISG Portugal Clinic.
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Developing an Olympian Mindset
(This article appeared on the Positive Coaching Alliance website and its philosophy is shared by the ISG Baseball Board of Directors whose members heartily endorse joining that great organization!)
Dr. Colleen Hacker (@DrColleenHacker), a member of PCA's National Advisory Board, has served on the coaching staff for six Olympic Games in three different team sports (soccer, field hockey, and most recently ice hockey). Hacker, who has a Ph.D. and is a Professor of Sport & Exercise Psychology, has served as the U.S. Women's National Team’s (USA Ice Hockey) Mental Skills Coach since 2011.
According to Dr. Hacker, “The same principles and techniques that we cultivate to achieve excellence in the Olympic Games can be mastered and adopted by athletes and teams at any level and in any sport.”
Five of those important principles are outlined in the link here.
Baseball Canada's Vision for Long Term Athletic Development Shared in Coaching Tips Section
Baseball Canada is miles ahead of the curve when it comes to developing athletes for life-long success. Thanks to our friend Andre Lachance, they have allowed us to share the scope of that vision with you. Check out our coaching tips section for a graphic illustration of their LTAD plans.
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